Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 16

Apologies to all those of you who read this regularly.  Due to large amounts of stress, I will only be publishing a new entry to this blog once a week, on Sundays.  Now, on to 2 Nephi 16.

Isaiah tells us that the year king Uzziah died (about 773 BC) he had a vision.  In it, he saw the Lord sitting on a throne set on high and, “his train filled the temple,” which is a reference to his royal robe.  Above this he saw a number of what he calls “seraphim” which, to most people the world over calls to mind either angels or Cupid.  There are a fair number of these above the Lord and each have six wings; one pair covering each face, one pair covering each pair of feet, and one pair enabling flight.  One of these spoke to another.  “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts,” he said, “the whole earth is full of his glory.”  As soon as this seraph spoke, the posts of the door moved and the house filled with smoke. 

At this Isaiah felt very uncomfortable, being a fallible human who had made a number of mistakes and, by the law of Moses, was therefore unclean.  Judging by his comment of having “unclean lips,” I’m betting that he had said a number of things he probably shouldn’t have said.  Anyway, Isaiah believed he was about to be struck down for viewing the Lord of Hosts while in this unclean state.  When Isaiah made his comment about being unclean, a seraph took a live coal from the altar with tongs and touched it to Isaiah’s mouth, declaring that his sin was removed. 

Then the Lord asked who would “go for us.”  Unhesitant, Isaiah spoke up, requesting to be sent.  The Lord’s commandment?  Isaiah was to go and tell the people “Hear ye indeed, but they understood not; and see ye indeed but they perceived not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes—lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts and be converted and be healed.”  Isaiah wanted to know how long he would need to say these things.  The Lord’s reply, until the cities and houses are destroyed and all the people are either dead or gone for, says he, “there shall be a great forsaking in the land.”  However, later, a tenth shall return.

I found translating the Lord’s commanded pronouncement particularly interesting.  Particularly the first sentence.  “Hear ye indeed, but they understood not; and see ye indeed but they perceived not.”  It’s interesting because quite often we hear just fine but don’t understand what we heard, or we see just fine but don’t perceive at all.  The main reason for this isn’t that our eyes and ears aren’t working but that we, ourselves, aren’t paying any attention or giving any thought to what we are seeing and hearing.  Understandably, the Lord is feeling frustrated.  Wouldn’t you if you were trying to warn someone that their behavior was going to get them into trouble?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 15

Today we’ll be having a look at 2 Nephi 15, which may be compared with Isaiah 5.  Don’t forget that you have the ability to comment (anonymously if you wish) about this entry, which is likely to be fairly long.

This chapter starts off with Isaiah declaring that he will sing a song of his beloved, who owns a vineyard that is situated on a fruitful hill.  He has done everything he can think of to protect and provide for his vineyard.  He has built a stone wall around it, incorporating a thorny hedge, meant to keep out critters intent on eating the fruit within.  He has gathered all the stones from the ground of the vineyard, so that the roots will have plenty of room to spread out and get lots of good nutrients from the soil.  He has planted the best, hardiest richest and most delicious grapes in the vineyard from vines he bought from someone else’s vineyard of grapes, so that the harvest will be good.  He built a tower in the vineyard, which would provide him a place to live and a place from which he could watch over it and see whether it was doing well and if the defenses were holding up against thieves and animals.  Finally, he installed a wine-press in the vineyard in anticipation of a good harvest.  After all of that work, I think the person in question has a right to expect a good harvest, don’t you?  Then he watched over it, believing that all this preparation would mean he would put away plenty of grape juice (called wine at the time) for his family’ food storage.  However, when the season of grapes arrived, his vineyard produced “wild” fruit.  This means that the fruit was too acidic, sour, bitter, mostly seed or even rotten to be made into wine.  The point is that none of it could be used to make grape juice that anyone would want to drink.  Understandably frustrated, the vintner plans to allow the hedge to be eaten up, pull down the wall, allowing it to be “trodden down.  Then, he decides that the entire vineyard will be laid waste.  He will allow the fertile ground to grow weeds.  He will stop cultivating the vines and will also command the clouds to withhold their rain. 

Isaiah then interprets the above “song” by telling us “the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the House of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant; and he looked for judgment, and, behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry.”  What this basically means is that the Lord is the beloved of whom Isaiah is speaking and the vineyard is Israel.  The Lord has put a lot of work into them and has expected their gratitude to be shown in works of kindness and compassion.  He hasn’t seen it and, if he continues not to see it, they will be punished.

There are a number of “wo”s in here.  “Wo” is a word that, in the bible usually means “woe”  which means sorrow or great distress.  So, sorrow for those that join house to house, They shall be desolate and their cities will be empty.  Their fields and crops will give them less than they should.  Ten acres of vineyard will only produce around eight gallons of liquid (a bath) and a donkey load of seed (a homer) will produce about the same amount of grown product (an ephah [see your Bible Dictionary]).  Sorrow for people who only get up early in the morning to get drunk all day.  Isaiah lists a number of horrible things that will happen to the people because of this behavior.  But I’m not going to get into that here.  Sorrow for people whose immoral or grossly unfair behavior (iniquity) is a direct result of their pride in their own achievements or appearance (vanity) and, of course, their minor sins.  Sorrow for those who decide that what is actually bad is good and vise versa.  Sorrow for those who think themselves wise and prudent (but probably aren’t).  Sorrow, again, for those who are proud of their ability to handle their liquor.  Sorrow, also, for those who justify wickedness for money and take the virtue of the righteous away from them.  A fair number of these things are still considered to be evil today. 

Isaiah says that all these will be devoured in fire like the remains of a newly reaped field of grain. This, says Isaiah, is why the Lord’s wrath is kindled against his people and why he has lifted his hand against them to hurt them.  Even though disasters have destroyed the land in which they lived, the Lord is still angry with them.   He will prepare an “ensign” (pronounced /en-sign/ not /en-sun/) or standard to the nations from far away.  He will “hiss unto them (the nations, I think) from the end of the earth”. I think this means they will hear rumors about this “ensign.”  They will gather swiftly against Israel (without changing or loosening their clothing) and they will have lots of dangerous weapons and will roar “like a lion” and the sky and the earth will be dark because of their sheer numbers.

I’m not entirely sure, but I think this may be a reference to the final battle referenced in Revelations.  If you have an idea, which is probably as good as any I could claim to have, please share it in the comments section below.